WHITE SALMON— The City of White Salmon released the preliminary budget last week, which was presented to city councilors at their regular meeting Nov. 17.

White Salmon Mayor Marla Keethler told councilors at the meeting that the preliminary budget reflects increases in cost of living and an expansion of staff at city hall.

With the coming departure of City Clerk/Treasurer Jan Brending next year, “all of those things combined … what I was trying to really emphasize is that a lot of the costs right now are heavy on the personnel side, but we do expect some additional projects to be able to be funded in 2022, though they’re not reflected now,” Keethler said.

In the budget summary, posted on the city’s website, city officials highlights council priorities for 2022, which were approved at this summer’s virtual retreat. These include public safety and hazard preparedness, cost-effective services provided to residents, communication and outreach, reducing food waste at landfills and improving collection of recyclables, and affordable housing support.

Under public safety, the city is dedicating additional funds to support a part-time position with the Bingen-White Salmon Police Department to fulfill clerical duties once the city implements body-worn cameras on all of its officers.

The city is also planning to allocate funds towards improvements on the playground equipment at Rheingarten Park. Those funds will come from an increase in the city’s real estate excise tax, which is appropriated towards investments in municipal capital improvements.

The street fund will see an increase in proposed expenditures in the budget if approved, which will be used towards existing projects, such as the Garfield Avenue reconstruction project and the roundabout project at the Jewett Boulevard and Garfield Avenue intersection. There are also carryover projects from last year, Brending said, including an asphalt cap at Cherry Street and additional water main fixes on Jewett Boulevard.

City councilors continued a discussion on a proposal to increase water service rates to the next council meeting. The proposal seeks an amendment to the current rate structure by raising rates 5% above the allowed rate for 2022, which would have already added an automatic 3% increase from the previous year, Brending said.

At the meeting, councilors agreed to raise the property levy rate by 1%. Through this increase, the city may see an additional $8,834 as the maximum levy amount in 2022, which includes costs associated with constructions and annexations.

The public will have another chance to give public comment at the Dec. 1 meeting, when the council is expected to vote for final approval of the 2022 budget.